Can you legally film a DWI stop?

If an officer suspects you may have a blood alcohol concentration over North Carolina’s 0.08% legal limit, he or she may stop your vehicle. You may also encounter a sobriety checkpoint, where officers temporarily detail all approaching motorists to check for possible impaired driving.

Because your smartphone has a camera, you may want to reach for it to record officers during a DWI stop or at a sobriety checkpoint. Is it legal to record an officer performing his or her DWI enforcement duties, though?

North Carolina law permits one party recording

In some places, both the person recording and his or her subject must consent to any recording. That is not the case in North Carolina, however. Because state law allows one party recording, it is usually legal to record officers who are performing official duties.

Officers need a warrant to confiscate your camera

If your filming irritates an officer, he or she may try to confiscate your camera or your digital files. While there are exceptions, officers usually must first obtain a warrant before collecting these items. Even if officers obtain a warrant, they should not delete your footage.

Obstruction of justice is still illegal

When you are recording a police officer, you must not to obstruct justice. Interfering with an officer’s ability to do his or her job may do exactly that. For example, if you are too busy filming to perform a field sobriety test, an officer may arrest you for suspected obstruction of justice.

Obstruction of justice is usually a misdemeanor in the Tar Heel State. If an officer believes you have interfered with the DWI stop, you may face charges for both obstruction of justice and the underlying DWI offense.